Carola Pimentel – the Stylist of Tropical Modernism

Coconut Grove, Florida, 1925 house, image courtesy Assure Interiors

Can interior design be adapted to face the challenges of climate change? Carola Pimentel of Assure Interiors champions ‘tropical modernism’

Victoria Hood was immediately drawn to Carola Pimentel’s work when she was approached by a mutual friend to help with social media and public relations. Carola’s careful use of natural light, neutral colour palettes, and layering of statement art and vintage finds from Europe reminded her of time spent in Sao Paulo, Brazil as a teenager. 

The homes and restaurants Victoria visited blended a certain modernism (perfect for the Brazilian climate) with a layering of European history brought by years of influence by immigration from Portugal, Italy, and Holland. 

Carola Pimentel, photo by Tiffany Sage, image courtesy Assure Interiors

Assure Interiors is a Miami-based practice specializing in residential projects across the US and the Caribbean region. Established by Carola Pimentel, the studio bridges modern and timeless design delivering highly personal interiors. Assure‘s visual language expressed through well-considered interior architecture, natural materials and subtle color schemes incorporates bespoke elements with contemporary art and collectible design.

The studio’s international clientele includes many repeat clients and often younger generations of one family. Clients who come mostly via word of mouth, appreciate Assure’s discretion and cultural sensitivity.

The principal and her associates source furniture and accessories from across the US and internationally with Spanish, French, and Japanese dealers and up-and-coming Miami, New York and California galleries a particular focus. Bespoke elements including custom upholstery and cabinetry as well one-of-a-kind pieces in acrylic are key in achieving a unique vision for clients.

Known for their confident design approach imbued with a spirit of collaboration and fun, Assure creates distinct homes that meet each client’s unique vision.

Assure’s approach to design often channels the lifestyle of places such as Florida, California and especially Rio, Sao Paolo and Angra dos Reis in Brazil, subtly blending indoors and outdoors.  

Cocoplum Residence, Coral Gables – image courtesy Assure Interiors

Known for their fresh and respectful approach to historical buildings, the practice is regularly commissioned to create interiors in buildings by some of the world’s top architects ranging from Rem Koolhaas and OMA to Foster + Partners. 

The look, which could be called Midcentury Brazilian design, and its cousin ‘Tropical Modernism’ are Carola’s inspirations. To dig deeper into what defines these two similar styles, Victoria sat with the Caribbean-raised and Miami-based designer to discuss her careful and thoughtful approach to creating a home.

Growing up in the Caribbean, what inspired you to pursue your studies and career in interior design?

My parents, contemporary and Latin American art collectors, introduced me to the world of architecture and décor when they took me to see a hotel they were developing together. They always tried to incorporate interesting art into their projects. I was very young, perhaps seven or eight years old, but I remember loving every minute of watching them create, alongside architects and builders, wonderful spaces. By High School, I knew I didn’t want to be an architect or engineer, but I wanted to somehow be a part of building and design.

During a college fair I luckily learned of the opportunity to pursue my studies in Interior Design at Ringling College in Florida. You could say that an enjoyment of art-filled homes, as well as my parents’ involvement in the interiors and hospitality industries, prepared me for my career.

Your heroes include Oscar Niemeyer, Lina Bo Bardi, and Luis Barragan – all key examples of Latin American modernist architects. What do you love about their approach to planning, layout, and décor?

First and foremost, I live in a tropical climate and design for clients who often have homes in various tropical locations. It is therefore a practical choice to favour a clean aesthetic and distinctive structure that lets in plenty of ventilation and light. To clarify, I don’t design with tropical patterns and colours like a palm tree printed wallpaper. Instead, I design with durable materials, such as rich woods, cool stones, and warm leathers. I also pay a lot of attention to the surrounding geography and nature as they inform my choices in paint tones, wallpaper patterns, texture of fabrics, etc.

I understand that you collect contemporary art. How do your favourite artists, their styles, and their works inform your approach to colour, texture, and form? 

Bal Harbour, Florida apartment, image courtesy Assure Interiors

Yes, I love art and I get a lot of inspiration from my own collection of contemporary Latin American and European works. Some of my favourite artists include Uruguay’s Pablo Atchugarry and Carlos Capelán, as well as Brazil’s Ernesto Neto, to name a few… I am particularly drawn to small scale sculpture and wall mounted installations, and attracted by the 3D quality and impact the pieces create in the context of a room. For me, art is a very important element of an interior as it gives a room character.

You have developed Assure’s aesthetic and style. Could you elaborate on the studio’s sensibility and point of view?

Since I founded my studio in 2000, my priority has always been my clients, delivering interiors where they always feel like home. I have been very lucky to learn from my own curiosity as well as my clients’ passion for art and collecting. We often incorporate vintage elements found on sourcing trips to Europe and Latin America and mix these with exciting designs from galleries such as Ralph Pucci and Cristina Grajales. We design rooms that acknowledge and respect these beautiful and unique objects, and then choose lighting, furniture and fabrics that beautifully complement them. The interiors that we create for our clients are modern, practical, functional, and elegant.

Coconut Grove, Florida, 1925 house, image courtesy Assure Interiors

Assure gravitates towards calming hues and an earthy palette of sky and ocean blues, emerald and apple greens, and neutrals in stone and sand. Great thought goes into the influence of colour on mood and well-being. The studio in partnership with clients customizes colours for different rooms to enhance usage, enjoyment, and function.

Signature materials include white oak, walnut, natural stone, porcelain tiles and terrazzo selected to add warmth and visual interest. Great consideration is given to climate and appropriateness in response to each client’s needs.

Bal Harbour, Florida apartment, image courtesy Assure Interiors

What future projects are you most excited about?

We have several interesting residences across Florida and the Bahamas that will be ready in the next few months. However, what excites me the most about being an interior designer is the opportunity to start from the very beginning and to work alongside the architects on designing and planning the layout of a brand-new home. I love every minute of it from start to finish, including details like plumbing, lighting, and finishes. At Assure Interiors we are incredibly hands-on and create highly nuanced, timeless and liveable homes.

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